Month: September 2012

Sep 28

Confession Friday: Craving Cheese? Harlequin Romance Novels Satisfy!

Trashy Romance Novels 19

Welcome to the confessional, Bookworms. I wanted to write about the “cheesiest” book I’d ever read, because I’m overly literal and wanted to capitalize on my use of the term “word nachos.” I’ve read more Harlequin romance novels than I care to admit. I’m going to go ahead and lump them all into the same pile ‘o cheese because really- who can differentiate?

I place the blame for this habit squarely on the shoulders of my college roommate and butter-churning-best-friend-from-a-past-life Chrissy. I distinctly remember Chrissy distracting me from studying for something or other by tossing me a cheap paperback with a picture of a redhead lounging in a bubble bath on the cover.

The covers alone are hysterical:

Yes, I actually read this one.

Over the years, Harlquins evolved to accommodate a wide range of interests- they truly have something for everyone. You like your romance rated PG? They’ve got your wholesome wait-until-the-wedding-night set. You have a thing for cowboys? Greek tycoons? Middle Eastern princes? Check, check, and check. You can count on Harlequin for two things. The first is you’re guaranteed a couple of steamy scenes (I’ve never read one that went full 50 Shades, but they vary in intensity.) Second, you can expect epic and relentless CHEESE. I’m talking full on word nacho liquid cheesy goodness. They’re so bad they’re good.

You thought I was kidding about the Sheikhs, didn’t you?

So, what can you expect as far as plot lines? Boy meets girl. Boy and girl are undeniably and impossibly attracted to each other. Boy and girl must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in order to be together forever. (I read one where this guy didn’t want to get into a relationship because his doctor had told him he might have an unnamed incurable blood disorder. This was his reasoning for holding his soul mate at arm’s length. I didn’t say the scenarios were realistic.) The boy and/or girl each keep the truth of their baggage a secret and inadvertently break each other’s hearts… and their own. Of course, they eventually figure things out. And they ALWAYS live happily ever after.

They usually end with an engagement, a wedding, or a baby.

Harlequin romance novels and their ilk are literary junk food. Small doses are just fine, but reading romance novels exclusively will probably rot your brain. But you work hard! Give yourself a break from reality and indulge. You might even pick up a creative new vocabulary word! Bookworm tip- there are a number of trashy Harlequin romance novels available on the Kindle for FREE.

Anybody out there care to admit their guilty literary pleasures? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

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Sep 27

Are You There God? It's me, Banned Books Week.

Banned Books, Children's Fiction, Coming of Age 19

Hi there, Bookworms. Next week is Banned Books Week. Every year the American Library Association celebrates the books that have been challenged or banned from schools and libraries. I plan on devoting all of next week’s posts to things I’ve read on the “banned classics” list.

A lot of them are books you’d expect that were challenged for reasons you’d expect. It’s hard to find a comprehensive list of this sort of thing, so I started googling. My selections for next week focus mainly on modern classics, but there are always tons of new works or children’s books that are the object of parents’ ire. I don’t have kids. I don’t think I’d be happy with my 7 year old picking up a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey at school, but otherwise I’m pretty open. Reading is reading, y’all!

Take a breath to steady yourself now. People have apparently tried to have Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, the perennial classic for all tween girls, BANNED.

Really parents? Really?!

Being a girl between the ages of 11 and 14 is pretty much the worst thing ever. You’re awkward and ugly and developing… or not developing. It’s horrendous. This is around the age where girls get mean (they’re awful to each other. And I’m not even speaking as someone chronically bullied or anything. We were all really neurotic and hormonal and impulsive. I again take this opportunity to thank God that I came of age before Facebook…) I’m literally shuddering right now remembering middle school. Incidentally, this is how I know my BFF is indeed FOREVER. Anybody who can love you when you’re at your worst and weirdest is someone worth keeping in your life. Miss your face, HJM.

My visceral reaction to all things middle school makes me unreasonably angry that anyone would ban this book. If you didn’t know already, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is primarily about a girl waiting to start her period. I know, eww, right? But this is SUCH a source of concern for young girls! You start your period too early you worry there’s something wrong with you. You start too late, you worry there’s something wrong with you. You swear off white pants for all eternity. You live in fear that a boy will open your backpack and find your maxi pads… Or lack of maxi pads. It’s AWFUL.

You know what made me feel better at this age? Reading this book! I didn’t read into Margaret’s religious confusion (she was half Jewish half Christian). I didn’t start to question God’s role in my life or refuse to go to CCD. (That’s a lie. I refused to go to CCD all the time- because it was always on Saturday mornings, MOM! But it’s not like reading about a girl with questions undid 12 years of church and Catholic-ness.)  All I gleaned from the book was that I wasn’t the only girl going through this! I wasn’t the only one waiting around to grow up, all the while being terrified of the process.

The watchdog groups say to watch out for discussions of bras, kissing, and emerging sexuality. Well, DUH! That’s kind of what PUBERTY is, people. Seriously. There are physiological changes that happen during puberty and you can’t just change that by not buying your daughter a bra, telling her kissing causes pregnancy, or refusing to explain the birds and the bees. If you take that route, you’ll either end up with a daughter who never ever moves out for fear she’ll catch pregnancy from a public toilet or a pregnant teenager.

Since we’ve taken a trip down the awkward memory lane, do any of you bookworms have a YM moment you want to share?

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Sep 26

Gone with the Wind

Classics, Historical Fiction 31

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is a book with an aura around it. I have never watched the movie in its entirety (for shame, I know), and until recently I hadn’t read the book either. I am a huge trivia buff and attend a monthly trivia night. It’s for charity, so I don’t feel like a jerk for winning all the time. Because it’s not ME winning, it’s the CHARITY winning. See? Anyway, at trivia one month there was an entire category on Gone With the Wind, and I, Katie the bookworm, couldn’t answer any of the questions because I hadn’t read it. I had to remedy that, fast.

I was expecting the book to be a bit of a chore- I thought the language would be antiquated and it would just be about a bunch of fancy people sitting around in rooms. Everyone knows Jane Austen is the only person who could pull THAT off, so I wasn’t enthused.

I WAS SO WRONG. This book was amazing. I’m from Illinois, ye olde Land of Lincoln. Everything I knew about the Civil War came from a Northern perspective. That’s not really surprising- everyone knows that history is written by the winners, but I was fascinated by the Southern perspective presented in this novel.

Slavery was an ugly, filthy, horrific institution and I’m not about to go defending it. However, I take an Anne Frank approach to humanity when I say that I think deep down all people are basically good. Nobody starts out a monster- the world has to break you somehow to turn you into an asshole. The people of the South certainly didn’t see themselves as monsters. They were refined people who held fancy barbecues and debutant balls. Sure, they owned slaves, but most people considered themselves kind owners. At least it appears that way in Scarlett’s family. The devotion of Mammy, Prissy, and Big Sam illustrate that sometimes the relationships between slaves and their owners were almost familial- and the affection between slave and owner was mutual.

However, just because there were some decent folks who owned slaves and treated them well, that didn’t make it right. Unfortunately, plantation owners had a TON of land to work and couldn’t afford to employ a huge brigade of free men. It’s like if today you went to a farmer’s place and told him that his very expensive tractors were now property of the government and he’d have to figure out some other way to bring the crop in. The plantation owners were pretty well flabbergasted. So, the war broke out. (Side note on the slavery thing- most people in the North had never seen people of color. Many of them were every bit as racist and mistrustful of slaves as people in the South, they just didn’t need the labor as desperately. There’s a scene with Scarlett and a carpetbagger seeking a nanny that illustrates this poignantly. God bless the abolitionists, but we Northerners should get off our high horses- odds are our ancestors weren’t exactly enlightened.)

You know what happens when you’re on the losing side of a war? Your house and farm are burned or occupied. Your valuables are looted. Your family is scattered. Your friends are killed. It’s an ugly business, war.

Katie Scarlett O’Hara is the heroine of our story (I mention her full name specifically because my name is Katie…) She is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and widely considered to be the prettiest belle in Clayton County, Georgia.

There are a lot of people who idolize Scarlett. She’s beautiful, she’s feisty, and she is swept into one of literature’s great love stories. Personally? I would not hang out with Scarlett. She is a narcissist of epic proportions. She goes around stealing other people’s fiancés (even her sister’s!) and plotting ways to attract attention. She can barely tolerate her own children. Scarlett’s biggest concern is Scarlett, and her own fabulousness.

But dammit, for all her flaws, she’s the lady you want to have on your side during the Zombie Apocalypse (assuming of course, it’s not just the two of you about to be eaten. She’d blow out your kneecap if it meant her own survival.) Her single-mindedness serves her well in surviving the reconstruction of the South. Having no moral compass really helps you re-establish your fortune when your friends and neighbors are still floundering. Scarlett suffers no guilt fraternizing with carpet-bagging northerners. She’ll make friends with occupying forces if it’ll get her ahead. She does what she has to do to get her fancy fanny back into the lifestyle to which she’s become accustomed. She toys with the emotions of Rhett Butler (who is himself a scalawag- a term used often in this novel, for which it earns endless brownie points) while carrying a flame for the only man who ever turned her down. (I’m going to go ahead and say it- Ashley Wilkes is kind of a weenie. Sorry dude.)

She’s also the greatest procrastinator of sadness I’ve ever seen. She’s confronted with tragedy after tragedy, but rather than deal with her feelings and accept her grief, she puts it off. She decides to think about it later, when it doesn’t hurt as much. I don’t know what therapists would say about her coping mechanism, but it keeps Scarlett in fighting form. I love this book for giving me another perspective on history. I love this book for having such flawed characters. I love this book for not giving Scarlett a perfectly happy ending. I just love this book. Read it!

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Sep 25

Bronte-Saurus- Wuthering Heights

Classics 10

Greetings, Bookworms! Today we are going to play Bronte-Saurus. Charlotte is my favorite Bronte sister because I LOVED Jane Eyre, but Anne and Emily wrote as well. They were a regular Von Trapp family of badass lady writers at a time when you had to use a male pseudonym to get published. After I graduated from college, I spent a very lonely year living by myself in my college town. Why was it lonely? All my friends scattered back to their respective homesteads and I was trying to adjust to being an “adult” and living by myself for the first time ever. It was hard. So I turned to books, naturally. It was somewhere around this time that I decided I needed to catch up on my classics. I tackled the Bronte sisters.

My future husband was still living in his hometown (adding to my loneliness), and he was running a video production business. You know what kind of work is available to a young guy starting his own videography business? Weddings. I was a super devoted girlfriend and accompanied Jim to about ten million strangers’ weddings as his luggage toter/secondary (and inferior) camerawoman. I read through most of the receptions since I was only really needed to haul bags and man a camera during the ceremonies. (I totally ate the cake though.) Why do I bring this up? Weddings bring out the weird in people. All brides are trying to be unique and interesting, and a lot of them like to use literary quotations on invitations or programs. I didn’t see this quotation often, but I came across it on a few occasions:

“Whatever our two souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” –Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

It sounds romantic doesn’t it? I thought so, until I read Wuthering Heights. After that, any time I saw that quote on anything wedding related, I’d immediately judge the bride because I knew she had just looked online for pretty wedding quotations and had never actually read the novel from which it came. Because NOBODY- and I mean NOBODY- would want to compare their love story to Catherine and Heathcliff. (Cut me a little slack for being judgmental- Jim and I dated for 6 and a half years before our wedding, and I had my non-engaged status rubbed in my face every weekend for most of that time…)

I’m not sure if the ghostly lady on the front is supposed to be Catherine, but that’s not how I pictured her.

It’s difficult to trot through this plotline without flow charts, because everyone in this book names their kids after themselves, so I’ll get to the nitty gritty. Heathcliff is a swarthy orphan who is brought home by a gentleman who admires his spirit. Heathcliff is despised by the son of the household because he’s lost his father’s attention. Heathcliff is adored by the daughter of the house, Catherine, and they grow up together playing on the moors. Catherine loves Heathcliff, and he her, but she’s a spoiled society brat and he overhears her saying she could never marry him since he lacks status and education. She marries someone else, and Heathcliff spends the rest of his life trying to exact revenge upon his perceived rivals.

Every so often, someone gets caught out in the rain, takes to their bed for a year or so with a prolonged illness, and dies. Seriously- the frailty of these folks is almost comical. I know that given the time period this takes place, they didn’t know pneumonia from influenza from meningitis from mono, so I shouldn’t laugh at their misfortunes and lack of medications. But really. A good portion of this book revolves around one character or other’s invalidity. And nobody ever recovers. In the end, Heathcliff, after destroying the lives of everyone around him, starts seeing Catherine’s ghost. His poor tormented soul eventually dies and he’s buried next to her.

So. A pair of doomed lovers who never actually get married and live miserable lives before dying miserable deaths… Sounds like a GREAT way to start a marriage! Bookworms, are there any wedding cliches that drive you bananas? Ever wanted to call out a bride for using an out-of-context quote in her wedding program? No? That’s just me?

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Sep 24

My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors: Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Book Club, Contemporary Fiction 14

Hello Bookworms! If you recall from an earlier post, I joined a second book club. This is my neighborhood’s book club and despite knowing it existed, I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 4 years and haven’t joined until now. I’ve got some mild social anxiety issues… So the idea of joining a room full of strangers scared me a little. I tend to clam up and then everyone thinks I’m bitchy… I’m not typically a shrew, I’m  just awkward.

Luckily, our neighborhood guru is awesome and hilarious- it’s almost impossible to say ‘no’ to that girl. So, when we ran into her at a mutual friend’s baby shower (and she started the conversation by complimenting my flowers) I decided to give the book club a shot. She’s also such a freaking trooper- she had her appendix out the day before book club and STILL showed up. God bless her wormy little heart!

What in heaven’s name was I worried about? I apparently live in the greatest neighborhood on the planet. I’d suspected as much, but now I’m sure. Not only do most of the houses look like they’re made out of gingerbread, but the people who live in them are sweethearts! Like gingerbread ladies with gumdrop buttons. I just took that comparison too far, and I don’t care! Huzzah!

This month’s book was Plainsong by Kent Haruf. I’d never heard of the book or the author before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

If you read this, you’ll learn how to tell if a cow is pregnant! (Anal palpation. You’re welcome.)

As far as the book goes, I liked it. It was set in rural Colorado and followed the lives of a select group of residents in a small farming community. We’ve got an unusual cast of characters: a clinically depressed mother of two, the two precocious boys she seeks escape from, her beleaguered high school history teaching husband, a pregnant teenager, a pair of middle aged bachelor farming brothers, a female school teacher with a heart of gold, and her Alzheimer’s ridden father. There are a few other less critical characters, but I think this description gives you a good idea of the sort of slice-of-small-town vibe the author was going for here.

I only have one complaint with this book. There are TWO instances of teen sex parties where a single female services more than one male. I don’t know what goes on in Colorado, but I think that’s a sufficiently unusual circumstance (at least I sincerely hope it is.) I can’t figure out why it had to make an appearance twice. I’m hoping it was just a literary device, otherwise I’d begin to worry that the author might be a touch pervy. Although, he DID take the high road in a scene with the town ne’er-do-wells tormenting little boys, so I shouldn’t have played the perv card. Sorry, Mr. Haruf… If you’re reading my blog, holy crap on a cracker! I’ve arrived.

So bookworms, are any of you involved in a book club? Tell us about it!

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Sep 21

Confession Friday: I Don't Read Shakespeare

Classics, Uncategorized 20

It is with tremendous shame and utter humiliation that I admit I don’t read Shakespeare. It doesn’t make sense, because I love Shakespeare. The tragedies make me cry, the comedies make me laugh… When I see them performed. But I can’t just sit down and READ it. What kind of a bookworm am I?!

My first encounter with the bard was when we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 8th grade. Freshman year we did Romeo and Juliet. Sophomore year was Julius Caesar. Senior year we read Hamlet and Two Gentlemen of Verona. After enjoying the plays in class and seeing an incredible version of Two Gentlemen at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, I was a Shakespeare devotee.

I was also a HUGE fan of 10 Things I Hate About You starring the late Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. One of my favorite bands, Letters to Cleo, was featured in the movie and on the soundtrack. Everybody, even angsty teenagers, knew that the movie was an interpretation of The Taming of The Shrew. I trusted in my mantra of “the book is always better than the movie,” so I decided I needed to read the play. I was so sure I was going to love it that I bought it in a compilation of Shakespearean comedies, so I could bone up on more plays and be extra super smart.

I made it about 20 pages into The Taming of the Shrew before I threw in the towel. I had taken for granted the teachers explaining the social implications of biting one’s thumb and the benefit of hearing different voices speaking their parts. I just couldn’t follow it, and I haven’t picked it up since. I keep it on my bookshelf though, because I want to appear intelligent. Sadly, I’m not brilliant enough for Shakespeare. Bookworm fail.

Any of my wormy friends have tips for enjoying the READING of Shakespeare? Am I the only person who has this problem?

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Sep 20

Pirate Dog! And The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Historical Fiction 5

Ahoy there, Bookworms! Yesterday was Talk Like a Pirate Day, and I didn’t acknowledge it on my blog. For that, I apologize. I did celebrate, though. I put on my fearsome pirate-y eye patch and shared my yogurt with Pirate Dog. (Yes, Pirate Dog. One of our office dogs had to have an eye removed because of painful doggy glaucoma, and the name “Harley” doesn’t seem to suit him anymore. At least I don’t think it does.)

This is Harley AKA Pirate Dog right after his eye removal. Don’t feel too sorry for him- he was significantly more upset by the cone than he was by the eye. He couldn’t see out of it anyway.

Now that we’ve gotten that business out of the way, let’s talk books! I just finished The House At Riverton by Kate Morton. I read The Forgotten Garden a while back (you can read about it here) and I liked it well enough to try another of Ms. Morton’s novels. Sometimes I have difficulty differentiating an author’s “style” and an author recycling the same literary devices. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy The House at Riverton, but there were so many similarities in the story structure between it and Forgotten that I found myself drawing an awful lot of comparisons. Fortunately, I LIKE Kate Morton’s style… or recycling… so I didn’t mind too much.

The House at Riverton tells the story of Grace. We go back and forth between Grace’s time as a young housemaid to a wealthy family in the English countryside and Grace in her twilight years at a nursing home. Grace’s early tales start out just before the outbreak of WWI and take us through the first half of the 1920s. The family that employs Grace has its share of dirty little secrets (really, what kind of a book would be written about a HAPPY aristocratic family?) and throughout the book Grace uncovers them.

The cover is pretty! Too bad I bought it electronically…

It’s so hard to talk about books without filling the descriptions with spoilers! I’ll try to be vague. In this novel we see shell shock, paternity scandals, infidelities, sibling rivalry, class disputes, gun violence, and everybody’s favorite: the ugly American villains. (Kate Morton is Australian, though this book is set in England. The Americans are portrayed as devious money grubbing weasels. I’m not going to say that there aren’t plenty of devious money grubbing Americans, but it seemed a little pointed. Also, the Americans in question wanted to be English really, really badly… Who doesn’t though? They have much cuter accents than we do, and they can wear fascinators to weddings.)

All in all, The House at Riverton was a decent read. I wouldn’t count it among my all time favorites, but it was a solidly written story. It held my interest, and in spite of my criticisms, I enjoyed it. Have any of my bookworms run into authors that seem to recycle their stories? Do you think think it’s a question of style or lack of new ideas? (I am so not blaming any authors for this- I’ve been blogging for two months and sometimes I grasp at straws…) Talk to me worms, what do you think?

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Sep 19

Ermagerhd! Awerds!

Personal 8

G’day Bookworms! I mentioned yesterday that I was nominated for THREE blog awards while I was on vacation. Super super exciting! These awards are designed to share the blog love and give deserving bloggers some exposure, so I’m beyond flattered and will devote today’s post to the award assignments.

Pocketful of Joules and Quirky Chrissy both nominated me for a Liebster Award!

The Rules:
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to.
4. Choose 11 people to award and send them a link to your post. Go to their page and tell them.
5. No tag backs.

11 Things about Me:
1. I am not an especially picky eater, but I despise beets and traditional cole slaw.

2. I keep the boom box I received for my birthday in 5th grade in my office and use it to listen to old fashioned radio.

3. I found my first gray hair when I was 22. I now have my hair dyed in a double process regularly and am unreasonably vain about it.

4. I’m not sure if I’m capable of having a dream that ISN’T an anxiety dream. Tornadoes, failing exams, and missing out on Summa Cum Laude by one grade point are regular occurances. I also dream fairly frequently that my high school diploma has been deemed invalid by new standards and I’m forced to go back and complete more hours of gym class. Attempts to tell administration that I have a bachelor’s degree fall on deaf ears.

5. I didn’t wear makeup regularly until I was 28. It wasn’t a political protest as a feminist… It was literally that I’m very lazy.

6. I danced growing up- ballet, tap, and jazz. I learned a lot about people and competition from that experience. It did not bring out the best in me. Now, when I go back to watch old videos I want to smack myself because I wasn’t even a GOOD dancer. Sigh. Learning is important.

7. People who are skinny without trying annoy me. Struggling with one’s weight is character building, right? (I say this as I fervently wish to be skinny without trying…)

8. I don’t trust people who don’t own televisions.

9. I LOVE Harry Potter. If I could have a super power, it would be the ability to apparate. Travel would be so easy! Also, I’d have been a Ravenclaw, and my patronus is a penguin. I have detailed reasoning behind all of these, so if you’re interested, just ask.

10. I’m not a big movie buff. I watch a lot of TV, but I lack the commitment to watch movies regularly. I’m all like “no I can’t make a two hour time investment to watch this movie” but then I watch a marathon of Yard Crashers and blow the theory.

11. While I’m perfectly fine with the idea that I need not like everyone on the planet, it REALLY bothers me knowing there are people out there who don’t like me.

My 11 Questions to Answer from Joules:

1. Who is on your man crush list?
My celebrity man crushes include, but are not limited to: Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg (I like nerds)
2. Why did you decide to start a blog?
I’m incredibly vain and sure the internet wanted to know what I was thinking? That, and I got asked for book recommendations pretty regularly, so I figured maybe like 5 people would read it.
3. Had you even heard of me or my blog before I awarded you the Liebster Award?
Of course, yo! Pocketful of Joules is awesomesauce!
4. What is the last commercial that you laughed at (post it if possible)?
Umm.. I like the commercial for Capital One where Jimmy Fallon does all these characters saying they want more cash back. He does one that’s this Boston fisherman and it reminds me of the sketch he and Ben Affleck did on SNL where they both broke character and laughed through the whole thing. Hilarious.
5. What do you do for your day job?
I work for a company that does consulting for radio and television stations. Mostly, I look at charts and crunch numbers in a program that only my company uses. There are office dogs here, which is very cool, but I’m still not sure how I ended up in a job working with numbers. I sometimes got B’s in math. Weird.
6. What is the rudest question that someone has asked you?
I get asked a lot when I’m going to have kids, and it annoys me. I’ll have them when I’m good and ready, thankyouverymuch. Most of my family and friends know this and are pretty cool, but occasionally new acquaintances will try to make conversation that way, and it irks me.
7. What is the best vacation that you’ve ever gone on?
Since I juuuuuuuuuust got back, I’ll go ahead and say my 10 day Disney trip is the best vacation ever! Woo hoo!
8. How did you meet your significant other (if you have one) in 2 sentences or less? If no sig, how did you meet your best friend?
I met Jim, my husband, in college- he was my lab monitor. I was his stalker.
9. What are you really, really good at?
Nothing really. I know that sounds self deprecating, but it’s not meant to. I’m fairly decent at a number of things, but I’m not like BRILLIANT at anything. And I’m down right awful at quite a few tasks (singing, drawing, video games, directions…)
10. What is your favorite online shopping website?
Amazon, obviously. It’s where I buy my kindle books.
11. I’m always looking for fun beauty products that make me feel pretty. What is the one beauty product you just cannot live without?
Having just explained how lazy I am with cosmetics, I feel ill equipped to answer this. I’m going to go with my exact eyelights cover girl mascara. It’s supposed to bring out the blue in my eyes, it doesn’t clump, and it’s waterproof, which is good because I’m a crier.

My Questions to Answer from Chrissy:
1. What is your favorite Dr. Seuss story?
Tough call, but I’m going to go with One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
2. If your life were a movie what genre would it be?
Dark comedy, a la Drop Dead Gorgeous. I was in a beauty pageant SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM once. Paid for my first semester of books for college. I was only first runner-up though. Losing is ALSO character building, right?!
3. What is the worst state in the union? Why?
That’s kind if mean, don’t you think, Chrissy? I mean, it’s not North Dakota’s fault that it’s the lesser Dakota. (I don’t actually hate any of the states- apologies to any North Dakota folks!)
4. Describe, in three sentences or less, your high school experience.
I spent my weekends alone watching marathons of Real World, Road Rules, and Daria on MTV. I mean, I had friends and stuff, but yeah. I’m glad that’s over.
5. If you could sum yourself up in song lyrics, what song would it be?
This is a difficult question. I’m going to go with “Kate” by Ben Folds Five. Because you can seeee daisies in my footsteps, and my mix tapes ARE masterpieces. Oh yeah. And my name is Katie, which is practically Kate, so it was written about me.
6. If you could travel through time and space, where and when would you go?
Time travel is a seriously risky business. I’d probably be burned as a witch if I went back anywhere, and people smelled really bad before deodorant. BUT. I think I’d be interested in biblical times because I think it would be fascinating to watch that unfold. Then I could come back to the here and now and say “Actually, I asked Jesus for clarification on that one and he said…” I also have a fascination with the middle ages, but I’d break the universe by trying to sneak penicillin in my space travel carry-on bag and cure the bubonic plague…
7. What is the best Halloween costume you’ve ever had?
I’ve had some fun ones. I was a penguin, the Cat in the Hat, the Bee Girl from the Blind Melon video, and Raggedy Ann. Those have to be among my favorites.
8. What are your top 3 vices?
Junk food, gossip, bad reality television
9. How much time do you spend on the interwebs?
More than I care to admit
10. If you could give yourself any title/rank/leader of any country/object/or whatever you want, what would it be? (Ex: I am the Empress of the Internet)
I hope this is an empty title, because I don’t want any more responsibility. Queen of Penguin Enthusiasts of the Universe. I want a tiara AND scepter. A sash too, if it’s not too much trouble.
11. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A lot of things annoy me, but I don’t think I have any one specific pet peeve. I hate when people don’t use turn signals. Can that count?

I was also nominated for the Sunshine Award by Liam at The Life of A Thinker. 

The conditions of this award are to answer the eight questions below, and nominate 10 other awesome bloggers.

The Questions:
1. What is your favourite Christmas/festive movie?
A Muppet Christmas Carol. Rizzo the Rat MAKES that movie. “And I am here for the food.” A rat after my own heart.
2. What is your favourite flower?
(I love that this was written with British spelling!) This is difficult for me to answer because I love flowers so much, but I guess I’ll say daisies. They’re such a happy flower, and this IS the sunshine award, after all.
3. What is your favourite non – alcoholic beverage?
Unsweetened iced tea is what I drink most often, but if I get my wish to be skinny without trying, it’ll be all chocolate milkshakes all the time.
4. What is your passion?
I don’t suppose it will come as a surprise to anyone when I shout, BOOKS!!!!!!
5. What is your favourite time of year?
Fall, for sure is my favorite season. I love the way everything smells and pumpkin baked goods and hot cider with cinnamon. It’s such a cozy time. That said, I also LOVE the lead up to Christmas. I love decorating, wrapping, shopping, and eating all the delicious treats!
6. What is your favourite time of day?
Any time but morning? I am horrible at getting out of bed.
7. What is your favourite physical activity?
Do you mean like working out? I wouldn’t say I necessarily enjoy it, but I tolerate zumba and pilates fairly well.
8. What is your favourite vacation?
I just got back from Disney World, so I’d feel traitorous if I said anything else.

Whew! That was something. I am still new at this so it’s going to be tough for me to nominate a ton of bloggers. I’m going to go ahead an nominate 11 people for all of the above awards. I’m really quite lazy. So congratulations my bloggy nominees, you win… THRICE!!! Here are some blogs I love!

1. Filing Jointly Finally

2. Psychobabble

3. Eyechow

4. Books, J’adore

5. B(itch)log

6. It’s A Dome Life

7. What Jane Read Next

8. In Natalie’s Shoes

9. There & Back

10. Sorry Kid, Your Mom Doesn’t Play Well With Others

11. Chewylicious

Congratulations all you nominees! You just won the Liebster award from me… Twice. And the Sunshine award! Wahoo!

Here are MY chain letter-esque questions for YOU:

1. What is your favorite holiday, and why?

2. If you could have a super power, what would it be?

3. What’s your favorite genre of book?

4. You know you have guilty pleasure TV shows. Spill it!

5. What is your day job?

6. What is your ideal vacation destination?

7. Do you think you would survive a Zombie Apocalypse?

8. What is your favorite type of take-out food?

9. Name one thing you keep in your underwear drawer that isn’t underwear.

10. If you could meet any celebrity, who would you choose?

11. What is the greatest animal on the planet? (The correct answer is penguin, but I am interested in everyone’s various shades of wrong-ness.)

Whew. Did you read this all? Yay awards! Yay everyone! It took me three days to finish this beast!

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Sep 18

Don't Let the Bonnet Fool You: Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Mystery, Religion 15

I read a lot, obviously,  but I also watch a lot of television. I’m only human. Sometimes I watch cheesy reality television. My latest fascination has been Amish: Out of Order on the National Geographic channel. It’s a reality show about a bunch of people who have left the Amish and are trying to adjust to life in the outside world.

I’ve read a few novels by Jodi Picoult, but my favorite by far has been Plain Truth. It’s about an Amish community being shaken by a shocking crime. As I’m watching my Amish reality show, I find myself saying things like “Ah yes, Rumsrpinga.” Or “listen to their odd accents- they speak a particular dialect of German in addition to English, and due to their seclusion it has morphed into nearly its own language entirely…” Clearly I am an expert in all things Amish thanks to Jodi Picoult (I’m not an expert in anything, but I did learn a lot from this book.)

Don’t let the bonnet fool you. That Katie Fisher is a sinner, yo.

Plain Truth centers on an Amish girl named Katie (I swear this is not the only reason I like this book.) Katie is 18 and unmarried, but appears to have given birth in a barn (a colossal no-no in Amish-ville. They know good and well how babies are made, and shenanigans of that kind are NOT okay amongst the unmarried.) The baby is later discovered by a farmhand, dead. The cause of death is unclear.

It’s difficult for me to write this review without making it a mess of spoilers, and I like this book enough to not want to ruin it for anyone. I’m going to try to focus the Amish-ness of it all instead of spoiling all the saucy bits for you. Not only is it incredibly rare for an Amish girl to get pregnant out of wedlock, Katie appears to have no memory of the conception or birth. That certainly doesn’t help her case when she’s put on trial for the murder of the newborn. It throws the whole community into a tizzy, because the Amish are also devout pacifists. A murder charge?! Against an Amish girl?! Inconceivable!

All I really knew about the Amish before I read this is that they were a quaint religious sect who didn’t use electricity and built high quality cabinetry. I mean, most people know that the Amish dress differently, they drive horse buggies instead of cars, and they make gorgeous quilts, but I don’t think most of the world really pays attention to the religion itself. It can be beautiful and incredibly harsh all at the same time. The Amish are a very peaceful people- they don’t participate in violence and are very focused on the health of their overall community. It’s also a very simple way of life, so it sounds idyllic when you’re up to your elbows in credit card statements and emails.

It has a darker side as well. School is not allowed beyond the 8th grade, which makes it very difficult for those who leave to find gainful employment. Many sects shun those who choose to leave the religion. Like for real. Hardcore shunning. You decide to leave the church and you’re completely disowned by your family and the only life you’ve ever known. You can’t even go home for Christmas. Can you even imagine how much that would suck? No matter how jacked your family is, they’re still your family. Only now, they’re forbidden to talk to you, because you’re going to hell. Way harsh. (The Catholic guilt complex has nothing on Amish shunning. I’m just saying.)

Jodi Picoult takes you into this world through the eyes of an outsider, Katie’s lawyer. The lawyer comes out to the farm to live with the family while working on the case. Eventually, we get to the bottom of Katie’s story. How she came to meet an outsider. How she became pregnant. How she was confused and in denial about the whole process. What really happened to that baby in the barn.

Like I said, I don’t want to ruin the ending, but there are quite a few twists, turns, and discoveries made through the course of this novel. Courtroom drama isn’t normally my thing, but I was so enthralled learning about Amish culture that the Law and Order rigamarole didn’t phase me. It’s definitely worth the read. If you’re looking for something a little different (and you haven’t been reading a bunch of Jodi Picoult, because she can get a wee bit formulaic…) give it a shot!

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Sep 17

Airplane Reading: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Coming of Age, Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult Fiction 3

Hello bookworms! I’m back! I was on vacation, but you’re not supposed to say things like that on the internet, because 20/20 says that’s an invitation to burglars to, um, burgle your home. As we did not want to be burgled, I claimed to be an international super spy instead. Smoke in mirrors. (Mark it off the bucket list- I used three forms of “burgle” in two sentences.)

Jim and I went on our first “real” vacation. We went to Florida this past January, but it didn’t count because Jim had to work while we were there. THIS counted. 10 days at Walt Disney World! Don’t you dare go judging, we are simply young at heart.

I went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party as the Cheshire Cat. The Queen of Hearts was suspicious…

The first of my three meetings with Alice. What can I say? I’m a fan!

This is one of Mary Poppins’ penguins! All time favorite movie. All time favorite animal. Mr. Penguin is preparing to give me beak kisses here.

I learned several important things on this trip. First- the concept of personal space is one that is not shared by all cultures. Second- no matter how much zumba SHOULD prepare you for walking all day, it does NOT. Bring Advil and blister bandages (I was actually prepared for this, but still. Ouch.) Third- I am still not quite ready to have my own children. The vast majority of kids were adorable, but there were enough jerky little punks to make my womb shut tight for a while still.

What does this have to do with reading? Other than my obvious obsession with Alice in Wonderland, nothing. So…Let’s talk about what I read on the plane!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs was my choice for travel reading. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from this book, but whatever my expectations were, it certainly wasn’t what I got. Miss Peregrine combines aspects of A Wrinkle in Time, Harry Potter, and the TV show Heroes. Our protagonist Jacob is a teenage boy traumatized by witnessing the tragic death of his grandfather. He sets out to learn about his grandfather’s childhood in the orphanage he inhabited during WWII. What Jacob doesn’t realize is that his grandfather was more than just a Jewish refugee from Poland given asylum on a remote Welsh island. He was “peculiar.”

“Peculiar” people basically have super powers. Some are invisible, some can fly, some can light fires, some can resurrect the dead, and some can make things grow into elaborate tree sculptures (if teleportation is not an option for my personal super power, I wouldn’t mind having the ability to grow hedges into amusing shapes. Runner up super power acquired ). It is said that the peculiars often hid out in plain sight- as sideshow acts in circuses. That’s kind of brilliant, because as I mentioned in my post on The Night Circuseverybody expects crazy fakery in circuses.

Another trait amongst the peculiars? Some of them can see the invisible monsters that are trying to exterminate the peculiars by devouring them. Yes, the MONSTERS that want to EAT peculiar people. Are you still with me? Good.

In order to keep the peculiar  children safe, they live within time loops that allow them to hide from the monsters. A time loop is essentially the same day played over and over again- so the children never age and are hidden from the monsters. The time loops are overseen by… how do I describe this without it sounding stupid? There is no good way. The time loops and the peculiar children within them are overseen by shape shifting bird-woman nannies.

Jacob stumbles across the time loop and discovers that his grandfather was devoured by a monster, not a pack of wild dogs (a pack of wild dogs in Florida. Really? Gators are so much more glamorous.) Jacob and the peculiar children work at solving some mysteries, chaos ensues, the day is saved by a team effort of super powers. You know the drill.

It sounds a little ridiculous, but it’s actually a pretty good book. The only gripe I have is that it was left sooooo open ended. I’m a little concerned that this story won’t hold up as a series, but hey what do I know? I certainly liked it enough to check out book 2.

Also! I was apparently nominated for THREE blog awards while I was away! Thank you, thank you, thank you to Pocketful of Joules, Quirky Chrissy, and The Life of a Thinker for nominating me! The rules for accepting the award include some extra odds and ends, so it may be a while before I get around to all of it. But thank you from the bottom of my wormy little heart! 🙂

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